We get a lot of stories of men doing adventurous and determined missions of courage. We get a lot…… What we don’t get are the stories of their female counterparts, blazing trails and making strides for women in fields dominated by men. Thirty years ago, in the world of yacht racing, there was an incredible victory for women, by Tracy Edwards and the crew of Maiden. When I heard about the documentary, I wanted to know more. I was intrigued. What I found was a riveting tale of courage and determination and a story that is as exciting as any action movie I’ve seen and should be an inspiration to all women, especially at this time in history. Women can make a difference and this film demonstrates it.
In 1986, while I was still in high school, Tracy Edwards decided that she wanted to put together an all female crew to sail in the male dominated world of sailing, in the Whitbread Round the World Race. Tracy had sailed in the Whitbread as a crew for another boat but the crew treated her like a servant. She wanted to prove that women could compete with men, that women could be the equal of men. As she states, she wasn’t a feminist, she just wanted to be able to do what she loved. Along the way, her and the crew had their ups and downs, triumphs and failures but as a team, they proved their indomitable spirit and while not winning the overall race, still proved that women were the equal of the male racers and gained respect along the way.
A few key pieces of information, The Whitbread Round the World Race began in 1973, sponsored by Britain’s Whitbread, a brewery that evolved into a hotel and hospitality chain. The race, held every three years, switched sponsors in 2001 and is now known as the Volvo Ocean Race. Maiden won two of the legs, the longest and shortest, in the 5th WRTWR and came in second overall in her class, the best result for a British boat in 17 years, and still remaining the best result ever for an all-female crew.
As a documentary of the race and the events leading up to it, it does a fantastic job of mixing early footage of Tracy, footage of the race, and interviews with Tracy, her crew and other participants, including some of the male competitors as well as journalists of the time. It unfolds a tale of a determined and passionate woman who wanted the chance to prove herself and her crew could race with the best. It focuses on Tracy as she is the focal point, the main driving force for putting together the team, building the boat, gathering support and funds for their mission. The interviews with young Tracy interspersed with the older Tracy of today paints a picture of her passion and emotion during this often stressful but exhilarating time and her determination was the key to the entire drama.
For a documentary, this story was riveting and absorbing in a way few documentaries manage to be. Even though I was fairly certain of the outcome, the film kept me on the edge of my seat as events unfolded and the race took place. When the race began, men were betting that Tracy and her crew wouldn’t even make it through the first leg. And yet, they proved the men wrong. After that, they dug deep and managed to show the men that they were competitors to take seriously and earned the respect of their fellow racers. In the end, they were feted for their accomplishments and made strides for women everywhere.
From 50 foot waves, to life and death situations, to drama among the crew, and coming together as a crew, this film really has all the makings of a big budget action movie. I wish I’d known this story earlier in my life but I’m so glad I got the opportunity to hear it now. The action and the drama were so engrossing that I couldn’t look away from the film. Even better, the mix of interviews doesn’t just focus on Tracy but spotlights the crew of the Maiden as well. The crew, 12 women, all came together to embrace their power and compete on the same level as the men.
While most documentaries can be slow, this one is engaging, compelling and dynamic. The story is incredible and the women intriguing. If you watch only one documentary this year, I recommend this one. It is a story well worth hearing, especially today when women are once again fighting for our rights.
Rating 5 out of 5 waves